No cans, no trash?

Al Kamen
Columnist May 20, 2013

In a big win for those who advocate personal responsibility above heavy-handed government, the U.S. Park Service is expanding the rugged-individual approach to a service typically left to Uncle Sam: trash hauling.

How about that for liberty from tyranny?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

In a little-noticed move, the Park Service on Earth Day (April 22) began removing trash cans from sites along the George Washington Memorial Parkway — including popular landmarks such as the Iwo Jima memorial, Great Falls and Roosevelt Island — essentially forcing visitors to pack up and take their water bottles, doggie waste, gum wrappers and the like with them.

The expansion is part of the Park Service’s “Trash Free Parks” initiative, which seeks to reduce the amount of garbage the government has to haul away (right now, it’s 380 tons of trash from the GW Parkway alone). That actually doesn’t mean, we should note, that there won’t be any trash in the parks — just that there won’t be any trash cans.

Maybe we’re too cynical about human nature (an occupational hazard), but we weren’t overly confident that folks wouldn’t simply chuck their trash on the ground if a proper receptacle couldn’t be found.

Jon James, superintendent of the GW Parkway, is more optimistic. “It’s a mind-set shift,” he said, adding that the program has worked with great success in other parks, including Catoctin Mountain Park.

The result will save taxpayers, he said, though there’s no estimate yet as to how much. James also said it will allow maintenance workers to spend more time on other projects. According to a fact sheet about the project, the Park Service also lists benefits such as “fostering a partnership between visitors and the park” and eliminating unsightly trash cans.

Let’s hope it doesn’t replace the blight of trash cans with something worse. Like, um, litter.

Known knowns

We weren’t going to read former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s book, “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” a collection of aphorisms and anodyne nostrums he’s collected and espoused over the years.

But book-jacket praise by Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger persuaded us to take a look. And anyone who quotes Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Seneca, Machiavelli and Jon Stewart is on to something.

Rumsfeld offers us nearly 400 “rules,” on business, war and politics, including: “Lawyers are like beavers. They get in the middle of the stream and dam it up.” Or this: “When you’re up to your ears in alligators, it is difficult to remember that the reason you’re there is to drain the swamp.”

It’s a brisk and fun read.

On the other hand, his detached analysis of the fiasco known as the Iraq war can be a little unnerving.

Rumsfeld occasionally lapses into a variant of the “stuff happens” insouciance we heard from him when reporters asked about the looting and chaos that gripped Iraq after the invasion. (The same “stuff” happened in the 1989 invasion of Panama, we recall, so it was wholly predictable and probably preventable.)

“Many mention the failure to find WMD in Iraq as if intelligence failures of that magnitude had never happened before,” Rumsfeld writes.

Of Afghanistan: “I recall no intent — expressed publicly or privately — to engage in a large, open-ended occupation,” nor a National Security Council consideration or decision to do that. It all happened “gradually,” he writes. So the “rule” here is?

Rumsfeld quotes Emanuel’s saying that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and then cites approvingly how Lyndon Johnson used the alleged crisis after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 to get support for the Vietnam War. (And that worked out well.)

Sept. 11, 2001, he told Politico last week, was a “terrible, terrible thing for the country. But people immediately assumed that that would be the end” of reform at the Pentagon. In fact, he writes in his book, 9/11 also “provided an impetus to achieve many of the changes that were needed to meet the threats of the 21st Century.” So there you go.

He says he’s “happy as a clam these days.”

Streamlined!

The White House announced last week that President Obama “appointed” Natalie Wyeth Earnest to be assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department and Gregory Parham as assistant secretary for administration at the Agriculture Department.

There’s more news to these appointments than you might think. Normally, these jobs would require Senate confirmation. But under bipartisan (yes, you read that right) legislation passed last year, neither of them had to go through that torture. The law removed the need for Senate approval of about 169 of these and similar jobs.

The White House made use of the law last year to appoint a deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and some folks to boards and possibly to some other positions last year.

But a quick check last week by the Partnership for Public Service of 23 of the 169 similar jobs affected by the law found 12 of them filled by holdovers from the first term and 11 still vacant. (Make that nine after Thursday.)

Last week’s announcement also included the nomination of Jon Holladay to be chief financial officer at the Agriculture Department. Under the new law, unless a senator objects, that nomination (and about 270 others) falls into the new “streamlined” nominations category and will bypass the Senate agriculture committee and go directly to the Senate floor for a vote.

Acting and trading

Miriam Sapiro is expected to be named this week as acting U.S. trade representative, taking over for the outgoing acting rep, Demetrios Marantis, when he leaves Wednesday to take a top job at Square, the mobile-payments company.

Sapiro has been deputy U.S. trade representative since January 2010, handling trade policy in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

Sapiro will be in the new job pending Senate confirmation of Mike Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, who was nominated May 2 to be U.S. trade rep.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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